February 28, 2020 at 3:19 pm EST | by Terri Schlichenmeyer
New book outlines long, convoluted path to LGBT workplace strides
corporate America, gay news, Washington Blade
(Photo courtesy Beacon Press)

‘The Queering of Corporate America’ 

By Carlos A. Ball

Beacon Press

$28.95    

256 pages

Delivery for your company’s product isn’t what it used to be.

No, you can unequivocally say it’s better. With the internet, great shipping partners, better routing and better internal handling, you get product out faster and more efficiently. People sometimes resist, but change is good and in the new book “The Queering of Corporate America” by Carlos A. Ball, you’ll see another benefit of moving forward.

In the days before Stonewall, not many places would accept advertisements for organizations that worked primarily with gay or lesbian customers. Many B2B companies were also reluctant to work with LGBT-friendly entities.

That was common because, in the beginning of business in America, corporations were often at least partially funded by the state in which they operated; in many cases, a corporation couldn’t be created without the assent of the state legislature. By the latter 1960s, there was more leeway in forming a corporation and legalities were looser but, Ball writes, businesses had to tackle racial discrimination before they considered issues of discrimination against LGBTQ people.

In the years post-Civil Rights Movement and following Stonewall, corporations continued to deny jobs to “homosexuals,” not recognizing that LGBTQ employees were quietly toiling in their offices and factories all along.

It was in the 1970s that activists and organized groups began to target corporations through boycotts and demands that they stop discriminating against gay and lesbian individuals. Ball says that many corporations went from a stance of anti-gay rights to being allies in the space of a decade or so, in part because they recognized that it was good business.

Even so, the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s set things back some, as fearful workers put their employers in positions to revisit discrimination in the workplace. This led to scrutiny over discrimination in the granting of benefits in the workplace and domestic partnership laws.

By the beginning of this century, Ball writes, most corporations finally realized that being a public advocate for LGBTQ rights made business sense. It is “reasonable,” he says, to believe that activism was one of the main catalysts.

Although it’s dry as the Sahara Desert, “The Queering of Corporate America” has interesting moments of small histories: imagine, for instance, spotting a stealthy protester holding a sign behind the news anchor on live TV; or watching, with modern eyes, early and very clumsy attempts to examine the life of a “homosexual.”

These are the nuggets worth looking for inside this quite-scholarly book. Without them, it may take a concerted effort to stay focused, since this history book doesn’t seem aimed at entertainment. No, it’s really more of a thin, quick education: author Carlos A. Ball is an expert on LGBTQ rights, and his knowledge helps to make sense of a subject that turns out to be surprisingly complicated in many ways.

If you’re looking for a covers-and-a-cuppa kind of book, this probably isn’t it; it’s got tidbits of surprise but it’s more erudite than not. If you need a thorough business history book, though, “The Queering of Corporate America” delivers.

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